The AAAH! Map

A visual overview from housing to homes

Role Researcher + Designer 
Employer Zero-G, Dublin 
Client Sherry Fitzgerald 
Year 2018

As Ireland’s largest property advisory firm, Sherry Fitzgerald have a keen interest in Ireland’s housing crisis. The brief they presented for this project was intentionally open, and guided by the phrase: “We all win together or we all lose together.”


Research approach
The task was to use design research, thinking and skills to create an asset that Sherry Fitzgerald could own as a contribution to the discussion on the housing crisis.

In my role as lead researcher, I undertook extensive desk research that included official government and industry reports; broadsheet journalism and opinion pieces; social media conversations, and examples of international research projects and best practices.

I designed and facilitated a discovery workshop. Participants included the Sherry Fitzgerald steering team, an external consultant who provided expert knowledge in the area of county planning, and a number of colleagues participating as citizens and interested parties.

We workshopped the problem looking at stakeholder relationships on a power-interest matrix, upstream causes and downstream effects, as well as identifying a series of loops that perpetuate the system.


Mapping the system
The desk research, workshop and subsequent conversations with the team produced a large amount of data that exposed the housing crisis as a systemic issue.

In our role as designers, our team were guided by the phrase: “make it simple but not more simple than it is”. Inspired by the metro maps of Harry Beck, we started to look at the process of delivering housing to the public and private market, as a production line, with key inputs and multiple output destinations. We undertook an iterative process of visualising and testing against the expertise of our stakeholders that eventually resulted in the AAAH! map.

A major finding of the research was that the word ‘housing’ in this discussion can only be considered as a composite of three elements: land + infrastructure + housing.


The map is broken down into three segments of major influence: Master Planning, Building and Planning Regulations, and Policies and Market Forces. These are subdivided into project phases, which can vary in terms of time, and levels of complexity and certainty.

We found we could overlay various elements on the map to visually present different information including the goals of the official government report on housing, as well as ideological and practical tensions that exert influence on the system.

It’s primarily a visual aid and infographic. Additionally it has the potential to be used as a tool, to anticipate the impact of policy or market changes. It also provides a common knowledge and language in a debate with many diverse interests.

The map visualises a system that is being discussed in the abstract on the internet, in government buildings and on the street between friends, neighbours and communities of citizens.



The outcome

To date, the Sherry Fitzgerald team have launched the map internally, using it to aid their internal operations. They have also presented it in meetings with official representatives from the Department of Housing. As the creators, we have suggested that the map be published as open source, accessible to the public, and particularly to educational institutions. It would be a useful tool for the public, a resource to be worked into and over, to see what can shift and change to improve the delivery of quality and sustainable homes to the people of Ireland.